Dashavatar represents the ten different incarnations of Vishnu which were taken to save the earth and its living beings from destruction. This article will narrate to you the story of the fifth incarnation of Vishnu. Despite being an asura king, Bali was a pious man and was a devotee of Vishnu. Like his grandfather Prahlada, he had become so powerful that he had acquired all of the Prithvi Lok - The Earth.
1. Bali was a Devotee of Lord Vishnu
During his process of empowering the asuras through his might and penance, Bali was ready to conquer the other two Lokas as well Swargalok and Patal Lok. Indra feared that the devas were becoming incapable of defeating the asuras under the leadership of Bali. He feared if Bali conquered the Swarga Lok, the devas would be forced to leave their abode. Therefore, the devas reached out to Vishnu for help to save the devas Vishnu appeared in the most beautiful form of a brahmin dwarf named Vamana. Vamana was so enchanting that no one could resist his charm, so divine was his beauty that, upon a glance, women would want to Adopt him for a son.
2. Vamana requested 3 Feet of Land from Bali
One day the brahman Vamana reached the court of king Bali requesting charity or arms. It was a custom in the court of Bali that no brahmana would leave his palace empty-handed, so the king was more than willing to offer the brahman anything he desired. Upon questioning his needs Vamana said that he wanted land measuring up to three steps of his tiny feet, but Bali urged the brahman that he was capable of giving him more and insisted that he asked enough that he would never have to ask anything else ever again. If I were not satisfied with just three pieces of land responded Vamana, I would not be satisfied even with the whole universe.
If I got one island, I would want others. It is better to be satisfied with whatever destiny brings, for discontent can never bring happiness. In this way, he hinted that Bali should not have set out to conquer the whole universe, because it would never bring him happiness.
3. Sage Shankracharya Understood Vishnu’s Trick and warned Bali
When sage Sankaracharya, the guru of the asuras, heard these words from Vamana’s mouth, he knew at that moment that it was none other than Vishnu who had come to trick the king. He immediately warned his disciple king Bali not to give anything to the brahman as it was Vishnu. He said that Vishnu will take away from him all that he owned and give it to the devas, but Bali had given his word to the brahmin that he would fulfill all his desires and therefore could not go back on his word.
He agreed on giving Vamana his three paces of land. Sankaracharya understanding Vishnu’s motives tried to manipulate the king for his welfare. He said that as per the shastras a Gruhasth could only donate 5 of what he owned for charity. But Bali, being a devotee of Vishnu, did not even for a moment flinch about giving away everything for his lord. Bali asked Vamana to measure his three-foot-sized land and it would be given to him.
4. Lord Vishnu’s (Vamana’s) Three Steps Measured whole Universe
Then Vishnu in the form of Vamana began growing his size. He grew and grew until he filled the whole universe.
Everything was within his form: the earth, the sea, the birds, beasts and human beings, and all the planets themselves. Bali saw everything that existed in the wonderful form of the lord. His feet were the surface of the earth. His breath was the wind. His hair was the clouds and his eyes were the sun. He then lifted his foot to measure three steps in one step.
He measured the whole earth under his feet. In the second step, he covered the Swarga Lok. Vamana in his gigantic form and asked Bali if he had covered the earth and the heaven in two strides now there was nothing left in the universe that could satisfy his demand for the third foot of land. But since Bali had promised him a free foot of land, it was his duty to fulfill his promise.
Bali was defeated, but in all his humility he requested Vishnu to come back to his original form of Vamana, so he could fulfill his promise. Vishnu accepted his request and returned to his gentle form of a dwarf. The king then asked Vamana to put his third step on his head, thus surrendering everything he had even himself to Vishnu. Vishnu pleased by the devotion and sincerity of Bali gives back everything to Bali, except for Swarga Lok, thus ensuring his devotees, prosperity, and also the welfare of the devas.